Have you ever noticed that children behave more or less depending on who they are around? Even the most well-behaved kids can suddenly become mean, and erratic with the person or people who make them feel the most secure.
Most mothers can attest to this. To go run a few errands, they leave their little one with their father or with a caretaker. Upon arriving back, they ask, “How were they?” And in response, they hear, “Oh, they were an angel.” Then a few minutes after arriving back around their child, the child is smacking them upside the head with a book and screaming bloody murder.
So, what gives?
“The primary caregiver is generally the person with whom a child feels most comfortable expressing his strong feelings,” says Karen Dudley, a child-development specialist at UCLA.
While the behavior may feel insulting, it isn’t because you aren’t doing your job right, it’s because they feel safe with you. They know that no matter how upset or badly they act, you will still love them.
With that being said, it’s still best to maintain your status as the authority (gentle authority) over them. Don’t give in to their tantrums and stand by the rules you set in place. When working with toddlers, Parents magazine suggests giving a one-minute warning. “In a minute, we are going to stop playing and begin getting ready for bed.”
Then, let them know playtime is over and start moving towards getting them ready for bed. By doing this, you are teaching them you stand by your word.
You can also give them options for tasks they don’t typically like. “Would you like to brush your hair or your teeth first?”
And on days when your little one is being especially crazy towards you, plan for some methods of self-care.
Above all, don’t let the frustrations and bad behavior make you feel like you aren’t doing enough or that your child doesn’t respect you. If anything, experts believe they respect and feel secure with you above anyone else, otherwise, they wouldn’t feel so comfortable expressing difficult and frustrating emotions out with you.